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  • Writer's pictureLiz

The Great

Cheers to a Colorful Coup!

Streaming on Hulu | 2020 | R | 10 hour-long episodes


Genre: Comedy, absurdism period piece  Why We Watched: Confession: I've been getting Instagram ads for this show for weeks and have been counting down the days until its release! I know, I know... we try to watch against targeted ads and recommendations. But in this case, the teaser lived up to the hype and then some. The Great is the colorful coup I was led to believe it would be!

You Might Also Like: This show is an absolutely bonkers historical comedy. The Favourite is an obvious pairing, also co-written by Tony McNamara. The 2019 Oscar-nominated film portrays two cousins vying for the attention of a mercurial queen in 18th century England. Nicholas Hoult, who stars in both The Great and The Favourite, said that Olivia Coleman as Queen Anne inspired his performance. As ridiculous ahistorical rulers, I think they've cornered the market! The Favourite is currently streaming on Prime and Hulu with a Cinemax subscription. 


Welcome to eighteenth-century Russia!

Prepare yourselves for a wild ride: The Great is the ahistorical absurdity we need right now! The lewd and pleasantly ridiculous miniseries follows the rise of Catherine the Great, who seized power from her husband, Emperor Peter III of Russia, in a 1762 coup. But don't expect realism. Creator Tony McNamara also co-wrote The Favourite, and with his new streaming series, he delivers his signature cheeky vision of history.

Starring Favourite-alum Nicholas Hoult as Peter and Elle Fanning as Catherine, the young empress he fatally underestimates, The Great is primarily propelled by rapid-fire dialogue between its heroine and her nemesis. Their comedic rapport, built upon a thrilling mutual dislike for one another, is one of the most enjoyable parts of the show. In fact, the levity of their anachronistic banter coupled with the bright costumes might occasionally lull you into forgetting that the events of the period were, um, bloody. Don't worry, though: There are plenty of severed heads around to remind you what's what. While this is "historical" fiction, the self-awareness of our heroine and the way she navigates the sexism of eighteenth-century Russia makes her feel very much like a product of the post–#MeToo era. In the New York TimesEleanor Stanford notes a cycle of similar films, including Dickinson (Apple+) and Emma (Amazon). “What I think is cool about this new crop [of period pieces],” Dickinson creator Alena Smith said, “is that we’re acknowledging the influence of the contemporary moment right on the face of it.” From the get-go, The Great departs from the facts. For example, according to Hilde Hoogenboom, a historian from Arizona State University, Peter was notoriously unattractive and suffered from erectile dysfunction... the opposite of Hoult's portrayal of the emperor as a thirst-trap Lothario. But who cares? “Our show is not historically accurate,” Fanning said. “We pride ourselves on that.” This show is bonkers and I loved it. I hope you do too! Huzzah! Liz

It truly is!


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